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Iranian President Rails Against Israel at Lebanon Rally

A Hezbollah supporter, holds a poster of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during a rally organized by Hezbollah for Ahmadinejad's visit to the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, 13 Oct 2010

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke at a Beirut rally, on Wednesday, that drew tens of thousands of cheering fans.

It was like a rock concert, complete with loud music, singers and a strobe light picture of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad projected onto a nearby building. On the ground, tens of thousands of people waved Iranian and Lebanese flags. From some of the buildings surrounding the stadium, families waved the yellow flags of Hezbollah.

But when the music subsided, the mood shifted. The audience in the Hezbollah-controlled Shi'ite neighborhood roared as Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah - a U.S. State Department designated terrorist organization - appeared on a large screen above the sea of people.

Nasrallah welcomed the Iranian leader and urged the crowd not to listen to criticism of Iranian policy from what he called the "Satans America and Israel." Nasrallah lives in seclusion for security purposes, and rarely appears in public.

Mr. Ahmadinejad, who spent the day with Lebanon's prime minister, president and speaker of parliament had few words to say about Lebanon.

He praised Hezbollah's fight with Israel and called the politically divided country, a "university of heroism and jihad for the sake of the holy humanitarian goals."

Many people in Lebanon, including key members of the country's Western-backed parliamentary majority, have criticized Mr. Ahmadinejad's two-day trip, calling it is an attempt to establish an "an Iranian base on the Mediterranean."

Although the presidential visit to Lebanon has included economic talks and a $450 million pledge from Iran for water and energy investment, many analysts say the trip's purpose is more about intimidating Israel. On Thursday, Mr. Ahmadinejad is expected to travel to southern villages affected by the 2006 war with Israel.

*** This report has been corrected. The previous version incorrectly reported that President Ahmadinejad joined Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in calling for a strong Lebanese-Iranian alliance and the destruction of Israel.